A Federal Aviation Administration inspector met Thursday with the Modesto residents who reported that a chunk of ice fell through the garage roof of their home on Wednesday morning, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. The ice was no longer there when the inspector arrived, but pictures showed it was clear.
“Our next step will be to determine whether the home lies under a flight path,” Gregor told The Bee in an email, “and, if so, whether any aircraft overflew it around the time of the reported incident.”
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Sitting outside her Briggs Avenue home Wednesday morning, Lisa Lawrence heard a loud roar. “I thought it was a jet airplane” flying too low, she said.
Looking up, she saw a large white ball – perhaps 11/2 to two times the diameter of a basketball – hurtling down from the sky. A split second after it passed from sight, there was a loud boom. “It sounded like a bomb,” Lawrence said of the crash, which occurred about 11:15 a.m..
She went around the corner to Ackerman Way, where her friend Amnuay Savath and her family already were outside, with their garage door open. On the floor at the rear of the garage were many pieces of broken, melting ice, baseball-size and smaller. Above, light shone through a hole in the home’s roof and the plasterboard ceiling of the garage.
The ice also struck the rear bumper of the family’s Honda Accord, shattering part of it.
Savath said the four family members who were home all were in the living room. Had the ice’s path differed by a few yards, someone easily could have been killed.
When she heard the impact, Savath said, she thought someone had driven into the garage door.
Reached by email, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor shared no thoughts on what the origin of the ice could be but said the homeowner should try to save pieces of the ice and report the incident to the FAA’s Fresno Flight Standards District Office.
The family already had called its landlord, who said he’d come out to check the damage.
An FAA aviation inspector based in Fresno, Josh Brown, wouldn’t speculate on the source of the ice. He said he’d need to speak with the residents, see the ice debris and inspect the damage done.
In late June, a similar incident occurred in Moxee, Wash. A cantaloupe-size ball of ice crashed through the roof of a home and into a walk-in closet.
The ice was not likely hail, Mike Vescio, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Pendleton, Ore., told the Yakima Herald at the time. “I just don’t see any meteorological reason why that would occur,” he said.
A Sacramento forecaster with the National Weather Service said the same thing about the Modesto incident Wednesday.
But megacryometeors, largely unexplained chunks of ice falling from seemingly clear blue skies, are not unheard of, the Yakima article noted.
The FAA was investigating whether a plane somehow dropped the chunk onto the Moxee home. Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman with the FAA’s flight standards district office in Renton, Wash., told the Herald he didn’t know how often U.S. planes send ice hurtling toward earth: “We do not keep statistics on white ice,” he said.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327